The Nordic Africa Institute, based in Sweden, and headed by Director Iina Soiri of Finland, in collaboration with Social Science Research Council-Africa Peacebuilding Network, and in partnership with the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) hosted a two-day Policy Dialogue meeting in Abuja on 1-2 September 2016, on Regional Economic Communities and Peace Building in Africa. The meeting brought together a large number of leading researchers, decision-makers, media and other stakeholders.
Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Minister for Mines and Steel Development was the keynote speaker at the event, which was chaired by Professor Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari. The remarks of Ambassador Suomela-Chowdhury at the event can be found below in full.
Your Excellency, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Minister for Mines and Steel Development,
Your Excellency, Professor, Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari,
Professor Oshita O. Oshita, Director General, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution
Dr Cyril Obi, Programme Director, SSRC-APN
Director Iina Soiri, Nordic Africa Institute,
Researchers, Academia, Excellencies, Representatives of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very grateful for the opportunity to be here today. As Ambassador of Finland, I am truly hon-oured to be part of this Policy Dialogue meeting. I am also very grateful for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Nordic Countries.
The five Nordic Countries – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland – have for decades cooperated in many ways. One of the fruits and demonstrations of this very special and very close relationship is the Nordic Africa Institute, located in Sweden, and directed by Ms Iina Soiri of Finland.
When I was preparing to start my mission in Nigeria two years ago, and was doing my round of meetings to get myself acquainted with my new responsibilities as Ambassador of Finland in Abuja, one of the first things I did was to go to Sweden. I went of course to meet the Ambassador of Nigeria in Stockholm, who is also accredited to Finland – but I also went to Uppsala, to the Nordic Africa Institute.
On that occasion, Director Iina Soiri – who also happens to be an old friend and colleague from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland – took me around the Institute. I had the opportunity to meet some of the brilliant researchers from many different countries in Africa that work at the Institute, and to learn about the work that the Institute does. I was truly impressed. During my visit, Iina also promised me that she would be coming to Nigeria. And she kept her promise!
The Nordic Africa Institute not only brings together researchers and produces top-quality research. It puts a lot of emphasis on giving a platform for policy makers and the academia to come together, and to have a dialogue – like in this event in Abuja today and tomorrow. It brings research into policy. In doing so, it works with local partners, and promotes African institutions.
Peace and security, peace building and peace mediation are important priorities for Finland. We believe that the issue of women, peace and security, and the role of women in conflicts must be at the heart of all this. We support African efforts in these areas, for example through the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) , since its very establishment. As a European Union Member State, we are of course also part of EU efforts to promote peace and security in Africa.
The topic of the meeting at hand must be commended, considering the important role of Regional Economic Communities, like ECOWAS here in West Africa. I wish to join others in expressing my appreciation for the organizers, the Nordic Africa Institute, the SSRC-APN, and in particular the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution who have worked very hard for the success of this event, as well as the high-level speakers, policy makers and researchers who have chosen to be part of these deliberations. This is a truly unique gathering of a VIP class of researchers and policy makers, and a wonderful opportunity for dialogue and new ideas.
I wish us all a very fruitful meeting in this great Nordic - African context!